Comparing Symptoms of Normal Moodiness With Depression in Children

Overview

It is normal for your child to be moody or somewhat grouchy as they get older. But if your child is sad or grouchy for a long time or seems to take less pleasure in activities they used to enjoy, it could point to depression. Depression is not a normal part of growing up. Deciding whether your child's behavior is normal or is a symptom of depression can be hard.

Having a family history of depression, substance use disorder, or anxiety increases your child's risk for depression. A child is also more likely to become depressed if a parent is depressed.

Your child may need to be checked for depression if your child:

  • Is always sad or grouchy, and not just with parents but even with friends.
  • Is sad or grouchy without a known reason, such as being rejected by peers.
  • Shows less pleasure with friendships or activities that they enjoyed in the past, such as sports or hobbies.
  • Doesn't ask for added privileges, such as driving the car or going out with friends on a school night.
  • Is angry or anxious for no reason, especially if your child is a preteen.
  • Has a lot of physical symptoms like a headache or stomach pain.
  • Breaks down crying often and doesn't know why.
  • Has a sudden, noticeable decrease in school performance.

But younger children may have more physical symptoms, like stomach aches. This is because it may be hard for them to describe how they feel.

Most children will have some unexplained sadness or boredom now and then. Asking your child a few questions about how they are feeling may help you decide if your child needs to see a health professional for possible depression. These questions might include the following:

  • Do you feel angry most of the time?
  • Do you feel sad every day?
  • Do you laugh with your friends?
  • Do you feel happy when you are doing things you enjoy, like a favorite hobby or a sport?
  • Do you feel like you get upset easily and you don't know why?
  • Do you stay sad or mad for a long time?

While questions such as these will not diagnose depression, they can open the doors of communication with your child and help you decide whether your child needs to be checked by a health professional.

Credits

Current as of: June 16, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
David A. Brent MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry